Every so often, I have to blog about something non photo related.
Today’s subject…futbol and the world cup!
Nationalism is good.
And its even better when you follow the World Cup! Only a global event event like this can bring dark feelings of patriotic song, memories of past wars, and historic games in which your country revenged a past debt from decades ago. As for the US, our collective soccer history really starts in the 1990’s when the US held the ’94 World Cup but it still gives many Americans the chance to paint the flag on the face, drink loads of beer early in the afternoon, and hoot the ol’ war chant U-S-A! U-S-A! We really can’t lay claim to a North vs South game where slavery is on the line or even a USA vs whom every we’ve gone to war with in the past. Imagine the game strategy against Vietnam…carpet bomb the backfield, bomb the neighbors, try to win the hearts-and-minds of the opposing fans, and then have the US soccer federation tell the team to lose the game because the rating are low on ESPN. We have played games like US vs Iran (or as I recall the Great Satan vs the Ayatollah’s rock and rollahs) but they just don’t have that historical feeling like watching England vs Argentina where memories of the Faulkland Islands ring clear. Yet US soccer is still fun to watch regardless of their historic shortcomings and past. No I take that back, that Iran game at the ’98 WC was pretty heavy. I recall all the Iranians having heavy mustaches.
For the past few weeks, I’ve drank loads of coffee as the games start as early as 4 AM in HNL, and I have wrapped myself in the feel good Americanism of Team USA. Forget about our failing financial woes, our pointless war in Afghanistan, our leaderless nation not doing enough to clean up the Gulf oil spill…ITS WORLD CUP TIME! Its time to wave the flag! Sing at the top of our lungs: WE ARE PROUD TO BE AMERICANS! (where at least we know we’re free at this point from VAT taxes, a forced national health care, etc…) We are free right NOW and we should paint our faces in red-white-and blue and sing the joys of the athletic nationalism.
I can’t say most Americans are always proud to be American. Hell, Michelle Obama stated not too long ago…” For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m proud of my country.” I guess she’s not watching enough soccer. But we should all feel proud when our national athletes take the field and do battle for our collective pride. Billy Clinton was down at one of the USA games and when interviewed after the game, he was hoarse and teary eyed. Bill did America proud!
Sadly, the US is out. The mediocre Americans lost to a slightly stronger Ghana whose many players all work in the top leagues in Europe. Only a few Americans play near the pinnacle of top flight European football but most still play for second and third tier teams or work in the MLS in the States. By far the best and brightest (?) athletes converge at the big three sports in the US leaving soccer for moms, SUV’s and suburban white kids. We can’t say the US is out for a lack of trying. I mean some of the best games were played by the US. Just listen to Spanish announcer Andres Cantor call the game for the US against Algeria in the first round. Landon Donovan scored an overtime winner that still puts chills down my spine where I see that last second golazo. You can listen to it here in espanol from youtube.com.
But the US team just isn’t good enough to compete beyond the first round and knock out stages. Criticism has come from all sides stating we have a average domestic coach, players are not good enough, etc. I’m also reading the US soccer federation will now create better outreach programs to pull kids from the greater American gene pool. What does that mean? It means soccer will try to move into the ghetto and el barrio and pull kids who would normally go to football, basketball and baseball. Good. Imagine if soccer were to steal an Eli Manning, a Kobe Bryant, or an Oscar Dela Hoya? We’d, like most other sports, dominate. My friend David has always said why not get a 6’6 center from a basketball team and train him just to stand in front of the opponent’s net and jump up and hit the ball with his head? That’s more or less what Peter Crouch does for England?
And besides with all the immigration that floods legally and illegally into our country, we’re bound to have some Diego Milito from Argentina or a some other Latin, Eastern Europe or African star show up.
Alas, most of my teams are out. From America, to the country of my heritage (Mexico) the the country of my language (England) and now the country of my wife (Japan.) I’ve got nothing. I could start to dwell in the roots of my background (Portugal and Spain) but now Portugal is out leaving Spain with the only thread to really cling. I could never really pull myself to cheer for a national team that wasn’t mine or I didn’t have some connection to but at this point, the world cup is over. I’ll still wake up and watch the Germany Argentina game or the Brazil Netherlands game but in reality, its no fun. The nationalism is gone. No more chanting yes we can as we did and we found out we really couldn’t.
Besides, I miffed at the poor handling of major mistakes by FIFA for not allowing goal line technology to be employed. England had a goal taken away and Argentina was clearly off sides against Mexico causing the Mexicans to return to a game where an obvious injustice had been done. The US had a game winning goal taken away by a ref from Mali. Did anyone ask if the ref might have anti US bias? The US doesn’t have the best image in the third world. And besides, might that ref have Al Qaida sympathies?
Either way, another World Cup is just about done and I’m feeling depressed and blue. So much emotion goes into each game and it hurts to see “my” team loose. Eh–enough of this because soon enough, English Premier League will start in August and the drama will begin all over at the club level. All the big stars will go back to their multi-ethnic teams and makes loads of money again. Christano Ronaldo, who did absolutely terrible in this Cup, will go back to his millions in Spain and loads of screaming fans.
One sad note, the English, who were absolutely terrible in this world cup, were missing Beckham. What fun he would have brought to the atmosphere of a dying English side.